Taif camel festival returns at full gallop

The second phase of the Crown Prince Camel Festival kicked off on Saturday in Taif. (SPA)
Updated 25 August 2018

Taif camel festival returns at full gallop

  • Best in the region, the festival offers prize money worth $12 million
  • The festival promotes the camel heritage in Saudi Arabia, Arab and Islamic culture

JEDDAH: The second phase of the Crown Prince Camel Festival kicked off on Saturday in Taif after a weeklong suspension with the production runs for the “virgin female camels” and “pregnant female camels about to give birth” categories.

The festival promotes the camel heritage in Saudi Arabia, Arab and Islamic culture. Sport, cultural and entertainment activities are featured alongside educational workshops for camel owners and visitors.

Business leaders, politicians and camel enthusiasts from the Gulf states and other Arab countries took part in the Middle East’s largest display of the finest camels in Saudi Arabia and the world. Race categories classify camels according to their age, sex and the distance they can travel: Mafarid, Haqqa, Laqaya, Jatha’a, Thanaya, Heil, Zamoul and Soudaniyat.


Fierce contest

The 10 two-kilometer rounds brought fierce competition. In the first and fifth rounds, two virgin female camels, “Louka” and “Hafla,” took the fastest time with 3 min 1.8 sec. 

The results of all the rounds were as follows: “Louka” for its owner Dawas Saleh Al-Yami won the first round. In the second round, “Marmouk” for its owner Faysal Tahnoun Al-Hajjri achieved the fastest time, while “Wafiah” for its owner Saleh Dawas Al-Yami ranked first in the third round. 

“Thabet” for its owner Faysal Tahnoun Al-Hajjri won first place in the fourth round, while “Hafla” for its owner Saeed Modhfer Al-Ameri achieved the fastest time in the fifth round. 

In the sixth round, “Al-Tayer” for its owner Saeed Modhfer Al-Ameri was the fastest, while “Kouswa” for its owner Mohammed Btaichan Al-Yami ranked first in the seventh round. 

In the eighth round, “Al-Rabah” for its owner Abdullah Mouaid Salloum won first place. “Jamrah” for its owner Jouwai’ed Fouhayd Al-Ajami and “Shahine” for its owner Ali Rashid Al-Mari achieved the fastest time in the ninth and 10th rounds, respectively.

In Saudi Arabia, camels are celebrated for their beauty, grace and speed. Even as the country rapidly modernizes, the animals remain a central part of Saudi culture, and a lucrative one, with camel prices reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars and even breaking the $1 million mark.

The festival is the largest camel race in terms of the number of rounds, with a total of 781, including 308 first warm-up rounds, 20 production runs, two camel marathon rounds, 278-second warm-up rounds and 173 rounds in the final. This puts the festival firmly on top of the annual fixtures that celebrate Saudi culture, sport and the value of its age-old animal, the camel. The festival is considered the strongest of its kind in the region in terms of size and value of the prizes, with SR45 million ($12 million) on offer.

The festival includes a number of competitions, including one for photographers for a prize of SR90,000 ($23,998), and another for commentators for prizes amounting to SR125,000. The festival will continue until Sept. 2. 


Marathon rounds

Two marathon rounds will take place on Monday as part of the Crown Prince Camel Festival in Taif.

The two rounds will be 10 km long, one exclusively for Saudis and the other open to all participants.

Of the top 10 winners, the top two will each receive a car, while prizes worth more than SR684,000 ($182,371.5) will be distributed among the other eight. The festival’s media center urged participants to abide by the terms and conditions of participation.

The judges will closely monitor the competing camels using fixed-camera technology and a video system at the finish line to ensure the results’ accuracy, the center said.

Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

Updated 20 July 2019

Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

  • The TV images beamed from 320,000km away in space left viewers astounded but happy
  • The TV coverage influenced thinking and attitudes in the Kingdom just like everywhere else

DUBAI: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before the end of the school vacation, and Saudis had their eyes glued to their TV sets as they waited for live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Before July 20, 1969, the idea of a human walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. However, almost overnight, sci-fi had turned into reality with a live broadcast showing American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s dramatic descent onto the empty lunar landscape.

Between science fiction and science fact, the live coverage of the lunar landing amounted to an unusual fusion of news and entertainment.

Saudi TV technicians bring the first live images of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing to
viewers around the Kingdom. (Supplied photo)

The historic images — beamed back to Earth more than 320,000 km away — left Saudi viewers astounded and confused, but mostly elated to be witnessing such an epoch-making event.

The event was covered live on television and radio stations in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old.

“It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

While most people were aware that going to the moon was risky, many Saudis believed that such a journey was impossible and all but unthinkable.


1. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission control room in Houston has been restored to its 1969 condition and regular tours
will be conducted by the Johnson Space Center.

2. NASA ‘Science Live’ will have a special edition on July 23 on board the aircraft carrier that recovered the Apollo 11 capsule.

3. A summer moon festival and family street fair will be held in Wapakoneta, Ohio, from July 17-20.

4. Downtown Houston’s Discovery green will host a free public screening of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, with an appearance by NASA astronaut Steve Bowen.

5. Amateur radio operators will host a series of events on July 20-21.

6. The US Space and Rocket Center is staging a special ‘Rockets on Parade’ exhibition.

The Apollo 11 mission prompted discussions across the Middle East over the reality of what people saw on their TV screens. Some Saudi scholars found it hard to believe their eyes.

“I watched it, and I clearly remember each and every detail of the coverage,” Hayat Al-Bokhari, 68, a retired school principal in Jeddah, said.

“My father, Abdul, was 56 at the time. He said the landing was faked. He couldn’t believe or accept that a human could go to the moon.”

Khaled Almasud, 70, a retired university lecturer, was a student in the US state of Oregon at the time of the mission. “Americans were stunned and over the moon, happy with their national achievement. But many Saudis like me were either in denial or insisting on more proof.”

Since the beginning of the 1960s, King Faisal had been rapidly transforming Saudi Arabia, inviting foreign-trained experts to help build a modern country with world-class infrastructure.

Billie Tanner, now 90, lived in the Kingdom for many years with her husband, Larry, and their two children, Laurie and Scott, aged six and four. The family had just arrived in Saudi Arabia and headed to the Aramco compound in Ras Tanura in the Eastern Province.

A screengrab of video of the first lunar landing beamed toward Earth and shown on television worldwide. 

“We were going through a culture shock,” she told Arab News. “I wasn’t thinking of the moon landing, but we heard about it on the news from Dhahran.

“My kids tried to see the astronauts on the moon with their binoculars and said they could see them walking around.”

The Apollo 11 spaceflight has become a milestone in the annals of human history and science. Since 1969 space exploration has greatly expanded man’s knowledge of the universe, far beyond Earth’s limits.

The captivating live coverage of the moon landing inspired millions of people around the world, profoundly influencing their thinking and attitudes.

The people of Saudi Arabia were no exception.